MANILA, Philippines -- The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) knows very well how difficult the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be for the Philippine national basketball team.
Gilas Pilipinas was put in Group D of the tournament, along with powerhouse Serbia, Italy, and Angola. Their games will be played in Foshan, China.
"It is a very challenging group," said SBP president Al Panlilio, who attended Saturday's draw with executive director Sonny Barrios and chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan.
"Serbia is a basketball super power, and ranked No. 4 in the world," he added. "They currently have four active NBA players who could be part of the national team."
Italy is no slouch, as they are the 13th ranked country in the world. Angola, at No. 36, is the only team in the group ranked lower than Gilas Pilipinas (No. 31), but Panlilio pointed out that it is still "one of the best teams in Africa."
"It is obvious that we are the overwhelming underdogs," the SBP president admitted.
The Philippines needed to win their final two games in the qualifiers to make it to the World Cup, and also got an assist from longtime rival South Korea to clinch their spot in the tournament.
Panlilio, however, made it clear that though the odds are against Gilas, they "are certainly not going to give up."
"What we need right now is to look at the PBA calendar, and come up with the best training schedule for our Gilas Pilipinas," said Panlilio.
"The competition is going to be a lot harder and we are compelled to bring the best available talent and give it all we've got to compete and win games," he added.
This is the second straight edition of the World Cup that the Philippines qualified for. In 2014, Gilas Pilipinas won one game, beating Senegal, 81-79, in overtime.
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